June 23, 2014
The Lowdown on UK Bass Music by ASA, Engine Earz and Orifice Vulgatron
21st of May 2014 was a bass heavy day at TSM. The reason being, 3 of UKs most cutting-edge bass artists made a stopover for a quick masterclass at the school while on their Indian tour. The Auditorium at TSM was flooded with wicked bass licks, experimental textures and raw power. Going beyond the cliché that dub-step has become, the session veered towards a more left-of-center topic and sound; the sound of Grime.
Before the discussion on Grime went in full swing, multi-instrumentalist/DJ/producer Prash Mistry a.k.a EngineEarz and one of Bristol’s most talented Grime producers, ASA, touched upon the musical ecosystem of Bristol and how it has always been left of field in its musical influences and the kind of art that is produced there. They revealed the origin of the Bristol soundsystem culture, right from its Jamaican roots owing to slavery in the 1950’s to its current form and existence.
ASA, whose latest collaboration, Sanctuary- a 5 track EP, with members of Koan sounds has garnered him much acclaim, went down memory lane and took the audience with him, right from where he grew up in Bristol to the rich musical lineage of this fiercely alternative culture city.
Both EngineEarz and ASA have been a very important part of UK’s underground bass music scene. They went on to explain the nature of their favorite genre, Grime, which stems from rebellion of all things commercial. As ASA put it, “Everytime something fresh and interesting comes from the underground and it will never become mainstream; every time that happens the underground will do the antithesis; creating the polar opposite as a rebuke to that.” Grime is a form of UK garage and while it shares the same tempo (140 bpm) as Dubstep, Grime is more vocal driven, many a times composed by MCs themselves using video game controllers; radically fresh music.
Then the session took a turn towards the standard of recordings that all artists must adhere to in terms of broadcast quality and the right resolution for airplay. Asa, who makes most of his music on ableton sound forge, and EngineEarz who prefers Logic and Cubase, then went on to speak to elaborate on the fact that in this day and age where everyone can make music, making something different is very hard. ASA revealed that him and Koan sounds made a conscious decision to separate themselves from the rest of the musical herd with their collaboration EP called Sanctuary which took 9 months to produce. Both ASA and EngineEarz stressed the fact that artists need to work really hard at developing emotional connectivity through their music and focus on the development of narrative structures. This was followed by a quick demonstration by ASA on the process of creating a bass line for grime music, wrapping up the 1st part of the master class.
The 2nd half of the master class saw Pawan a.k.a Orifice Vulgatron from the hit UK underground act, Foreign Beggars, join the discussion panel. What ensued was an insightful journey into Pawan’s life as a veteran in the UK underground Bass Music scene. Pawan’s childhood musical influences ranged from black metal to hip- hop. He spoke about how music during his childhood didn’t come from an assembly line but was actually crafted and created and believes that somewhere down popular music today is formulaic, sometimes lacking integrity and creating more stereotypes that actually hinder musical growth. He went on to illustrate that though he has worked with a plethora of commercially successful names like Deadmau5, Noisia, Dj Vadim, Knife Party, Skrillex, Birdy Nam Nam, Alix Perez, Flux Pavilion, the signature style and production has not changed the ethos of his music.
This brought an end to the master class, leaving the audience with a heady mix of the fresh, edgy, quirky and trendy brand of Bass Music that’s being churned out by the UK underground.